7 Things That Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

7 Things That Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

We all know that fibromyalgia flares are rough. Heck, I wrote a whole post last week about How to Deal with a Fibromyalgia flare. Because let’s face it, they’re basically the worst.

So this week’s post isn’t going to be how to make flares shorter or easier. Instead, I want to talk about things that actually cause fibro flares. Because if we know what causes them, we can be better equipped to avoid them. There is a bit of a caveat with this post, as there have been with my last few.

I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before I dive into the bulk of this post. This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that trigger fibromyalgia flares. We are all bioindividuals. While some people with fibro have similar triggers, everyone has their unique triggers. If you feel so inclined, I would love if you share what triggers your fibro flares by commenting below. If something in particular on this list is a major trigger for you, or if you just want to share your experiences, please leave a comment! Let’s have a conversation and help each other!

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

7 Things That Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Stress

Honestly, stress is one of my main symptom triggers. Now stress comes in a couple different forms: physical and mental. And obviously there are a variety of ways these can manifest, so I’m going to focus on mental stress here. Busy day? Overwhelmed? People get stressed for a lot of reasons and way too frequently. It’s basically ingrained in our culture. Unfortunately, it seems stress has some pretty intense physical consequences as well.

High stress levels are a pretty common trigger for many fibromyalgia patients. Not only does it cause fatigue and fibro fog, but many patients (including myself) experience increased pain levels after a particularly stressful day or week. Sometimes, it can even leave patients bedridden for a bit. And while stress can’t be avoided, it can be minimized. Try to avoid unnecessary stressful situations and be sure to provide time for rest when you can.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Weather Changes

This was a something I honestly didn’t believe until I experienced it myself. How can changes in the weather affect how someone feels physically? Well there are a lot of ways the weather can cause a flare. First and foremost is temperature changes. Some fibromyalgia patients have difficulty regulating body temperature, so rapidly changing environmental temperatures can wreak havoc. Same goes with temperatures that are too hot or too cold. Even changes in pressure and humidity can affect how your body functions and trigger a flare.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Sensory Overload

Have you ever been at a party or another event and all of a sudden you feel a flare coming on for what seems like no reason? You’re not sure why but all of a sudden you’re hyper-aware of every single sound, smell, light, taste, and feeling. THAT is sensory overload. And because fibromyalgia is technically a central nervous system disease, it can cause your symptoms to flare. Many fibromyalgia patients have experienced increased headaches or migraines, dizzy spells, and other painful symptoms as a result of sensory overload.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Sickness or Injury

I know I can’t be the only one who feels my fibromyalgia symptoms flare any time I get a cold (actually recovering from one right now). As if being sick weren’t hard enough, add in a fibro flare. Who doesn’t need extra achy joints and fatigue when you’re in the midst of a coughing attack, am I right? But in all seriousness, many people with fibromyalgia get pretty severe flare ups when they’re sick with the flu, a cold, or any number of other ailments. The same holds true for injuries such as broken bones or wounds. The belief behind this is that your body has to use precious resources to heal and recover, resources that are usually allocated to functioning semi-normally with fibromyalgia.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Not Enough (or Too Much) Rest

Sleep deprivation is a pretty common symptom of fibromyalgia. But unfortunately, this same sleep deprivation can cause fibromyalgia flares as well. Without adequate time to rest, your body can’t recover from the day, wearing you down and eventually triggering painful and frustrating symptoms. Some people with fibromyalgia actually require more-than-average time for a full night’s sleep to help their body fully recover. That way they can tackle the day ahead comfortably.

Alternatively, too much sleep can also cause problems for fibromyalgia patients. Too much inactivity can make your muscles more sore and your joints stiffer. Oversleeping past your routine sleep time can also throw your body out of whack, causing a flare. So it really is all a balancing act, and learning what your body needs. 7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Certain Foods

Again, everyone’s body is different. And everyone has different nutritional needs. But certain inflammatory foods, such as refined sugar, gluten, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol, can often lead to fibromyalgia flares. This one can take some trial and error to figure out, finding what works for your body and what doesn’t. For me, for example, gluten and alcohol are big triggers, both for fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis. Soy is another. However, I also know people with fibro who do fine with all those foods but can’t handle nightshades. So it’s all about finding what works for you and your body.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

Overextending Yourself

I guess this could go under stress, but I think this is an important thing to cover. As people with an invisible illness, we are often held to the same standard as people who are not living with invisible illnesses. As a result, we often think that we should be able to do every single thing we “should” do as apparent members of the healthy world. And don’t get me wrong. I know that sometimes we all end up overdoing it. Sometimes it can’t be helped. However, it’s important for all of us to remember that sometimes we have limits that others do not have. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s okay to say no to things that do not serve you, or will cause a flare. Just remember, by taking care of yourself now, you’ll be better off down the road, which is better for everyone.

7 Things that Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

Unfortunately, even when you’re managing your fibromyalgia well through lifestyle changes, alternative and conventional treatments, and supplements like FibroAid, you’re still bound to have a flare day every now and then. They’re inevitable. In fact, I’m in the middle of a flare right now. And I’m not going to sugar coat it. It sucks. But you all know that!

I haven’t flared for a few weeks now, which is great, and I owe a good part of that to FibroAid. But this morning I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink. My entire body was aching, I was fatigued, light-headed, and extremely weak. Some days, if I get up and get moving, I do okay and can function. Today was not one of those days. Instead, getting up and trying to function actually made me feel worse.

So what do you do on flare days like this? You know they are bound to happen. And while there’s not much you can do to keep them at bay forever, there are things you can do to make these hard days a little easier.

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

How to Make Your Flare Days a Little Easier

1. Give yourself a break

This is probably the hardest thing for me. Our society conditions us to believe that our worth is based on our productivity, and that taking care of ourselves when we need a little extra is a sign of weakness. Well I’m here to tell you that absolutely none of that is true. You are worthy simply because you are you! Taking time to care for yourself, especially in the middle of a fibro flare, is essential. It’s important for your health, for your sanity, and for your happiness. Don’t get too hard on yourself about all the things you cannot do. Focus on what you CAN do. And that is take care of yourself and try to make your flare a little shorter than it otherwise would be.

2. Rest if you can. Take it easy if you can’t.

Whether you’re working or in school, chances are you can’t take a sick day every single time you’re in a flare. If you’re a parent, you don’t get any sick days at all. If you can, rest and recharge. Be sure to take your meds, use any at-home treatments you may have available to you. Listen to your body. You know it better than anyone else. If you can’t rest and recover, take it easy. Don’t over-commit yourself, and know that it’s 100% okay to say no to things that you are not up for or that do not serve you. Most things can be done tomorrow, or the next day, or even the day after that. Be kind to yourself and your body, and take it easy.

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to deal with a flare day alone. It’s okay to ask for help if you need it! If you don’t have the energy to do something, see if someone can help you. If your brain fog is so bad you can’t drive (we’ve all been there), it’s okay to ask for a ride. You will always be better off asking for help, especially in the long run, than you will be trying to do it all yourself.

4. Talk to someone.

As I said above, you are not alone. And you don’t have to face a flare day alone. That’s what your support system is for! If yours isn’t very strong, there are quite a few online communities where you can find people to talk to. If you have access, speak to a counselor or therapist. Whatever you do, talk to someone. Most people are kind and will want to help you in any way they can. You are not a burden for seeking a help or a sounding board to vent to. Heck, you can even contact me if you want. Just head to my personal blog, click on the “contact” tab, and shoot me an email. I’d be more than happy to help! Support is key for getting through any flare a little bit easier.

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

5. Distract yourself with something that brings you joy.

This one can be hard in the middle of a flare. It’s down right challenging to find joy during fibro flares sometimes, and if you’re someone who is happiest when you’re busy or active, this may be exceptionally hard for you. Hard, but not impossible. Is there a certain TV show that makes you laugh? Watch it (mine is The Simpsons). A book you’re enjoying? Read it. Knitting, drawing, writing, painting, and really any other low-energy activity is perfect for a flare day. My go-to on really bad flare days is listening to podcasts. You don’t even have to open your eyes, but they are a great escape.

6. Get enough sleep.

Fibromyalgia affects sleep patterns. Sleep disturbances is actually one of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia. So getting enough sleep is much easier said than done in the middle of a flare. If you can nap, try to nap. I know sometimes naps can help me reset and minimize my symptoms if I feel a flare coming on. Not a napper? Make sure to give yourself enough time at night for a full night’s sleep, whatever that means for you. For some, it’s 7-8 hours and for others it’s 9-10+. So just do what works best for you. You may need some extra time on either end of your full night’s sleep to either fall asleep or fully wake up during a flare, so make sure to plan for that!

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

7. Hydrate.

This one should be obvious for just overall health. We all feel better when we’re fully hydrated, and for some reason, this seems to be the first thing to go out the window when we start feeling horrible. But staying hydrated will improve your energy, support overall bodily functions, and may even help clear up the fibro fog a bit! And we know we can all use a little help in all three of those areas!

8. Avoid trigger foods.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a total comfort eater. When I feel horrible, I either don’t eat because of nausea, or I eat food that makes me feel better emotionally. And while sometimes, that’s okay, it’s not always great for fibromyalgia flares. If you know your trigger foods, try to avoid them or find alternatives. They may cheer you up a bit emotionally, but if they make your symptoms any worse, that would be counterproductive. Don’t know your trigger foods? Talk to your doctor, do a little research, and listen to your body! Here‘s a list to give you some ideas of what could potentially be trigger foods for you, but your body knows best!

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

9. Prepare if you can.

Obviously, you don’t expect some of your flares. Sometimes, there’s no apparent cause and your body just decides to revolt. But other times, you might be able to prepare. If you have a big event coming up, are traveling, or know there is going to be a lot of stress in your life, you can schedule recovery days for yourself. You can try to make sure you have everything you need on hand to make sure your flare is a little less painful (metaphorically and physically). You can even prepare a little bit for your unexpected flares by making sure you always have certain pain and symptom management tools on hand at all times. It won’t make the flare go away, but it might just make it a little easier.

9 Tips for Dealing with a Fibromyalgia Flare

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Whether you’ve been living with fibromyalgia for a while or are newly diagnosed, I’m sure you’ve heard of many different treatments for the chronic illness. I’m sure you’ve probably tried a few of them, too! But because there is so much information out there on different treatments for fibromyalgia, I wanted to touch on a few of them here.

Before I dive into this post about different alternative treatments for fibromyalgia, I want to say something. I am not a medical expert. The point of this post is not to tell you what you should or should not do, but rather shed some light on alternatives that you may not know are out there. This is also not an all-inclusive list. I know there are so many alternatives and different things work for different people. One thing I want to do here is share some ideas about what may help you manage your fibromyalgia symptoms. We all know, unfortunately, there is no cure. But there may be some treatments out there you’ve never heard of or considered to help you live your best life, despite your illness.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

If there’s a treatment you want to share that I don’t cover in this post, please leave a comment below so your fellow fibro-warriors can look into it for themselves!

Alternative Fibromyalgia Treatments

Acupuncture & Cupping

I don’t know about you, but acupuncture and cupping are some of the first things I think of when I hear “alternative treatments”. Used for centuries, acupuncture and cupping have become much more mainstream in recent years. Those interested in trying more holistic methods of treating fibromyalgia have been drawn to acupuncture and cupping as these practices are often used in tandem to stimulate the central nervous system and increasing blood flow. These effects are said to dull pain and loosen tight or sore muscles, as well as produce anti-inflammatory effects. If acupuncture and/or cupping is something you’re interested in trying to help treat your fibromyalgia, communication with your practitioner is key, just as with a conventional doctor! To find out more about acupuncture as a treatment for fibromyalgia, check out this article.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Dietary Changes and Supplements

At FibroAid, we obviously believe in the power of nutrition in helping manage fibromyalgia. That’s the whole reason FibroAid was created, to ensure optimal nutrition to help manage your symptoms and fill in the nutritional gaps commonly seen in fibro patients. While there is no specific dietary protocol for fibromyalgia, there are nutritional therapies available depending on your symptoms. These include increasing your consumption of high-fiber foods and decreasing your consumption of foods that produce gas and bloating. Additionally, it’s recommended to stay hydrated, which is good advice for everyone! Other dietary protocols utilized by fibromyalgia patients to manage their symptoms include vegetarian/vegan diets, intermittent fasting, raw food diets, gluten-free diets, and many others.

Dietary supplementation is also common among fibro patients. A wide variety of supplements are often recommended for managing fibromyalgia symptoms including, but not limited to, chlorella, linoleic acid, vitamin D3, vitamin B12, probiotics, and anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric. Some patients also use adaptogenic, tonic, and ayurvedic herbs as part of their supplementation regimen.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

In order to figure out the right protocol for you, please speak with your doctor or medical professional. And remember, the diet and supplements that work for someone else, may not work for you! So please, listen to your body!

Cryotherapy

So I’m not going to lie. This was an alternative treatment I’d never thought of for fibro before researching for this post. But now, I’m definitely curious! So what is cryotherapy?

Whole body cryotherapy is a medical treatment in which  you step into a chamber that is between −100° C and −140° C (which is −148° F to −220° F) for about three to four minutes, wearing protective gloves, shoes, and an ear-covering headband. The idea behind this is to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as provide a host of other health benefits. Look at just about every mainstream article, and you’ll see claims of weight loss, improved muscle soreness, increased collagen production, and so many other things.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

There aren’t really any peer-reviewed studies on cryotherapy for fibromyalgia yet, but if it’s something you’re interested in trying, I’m sure you can find a cryotherapy clinic nearby, as it’s becoming increasingly popular these days. And there is some anecdotal evidence that it can be effective for pain management. If this is something you choose to try, please make sure you research the risks, as cryotherapy can potentially worsen conditions such as high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, poor circulation, and neuropathy.

Stem Cells

I know, I know. Stem cells can be pretty controversial. But the research on stem cells for treating a variety of conditions is pretty darn positive. Right now in the US, stem cells are not widely used in the US, but clinic trials are underway. And other countries have been using adult (i.e. ethically sourced) stem cells successfully for years to treat a multitude of issues. Stem cells, specifically intravenous stem cells, have been shown to target and reduce inflammation and support the healing of damaged tissues. They are now being used in places like Panama and Thailand to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. If this is something you’re interested in trying, but live in a country where it is illegal or not widely available, stem cell therapy can be very challenging to receive, but not impossible. There is anecdotal evidence that stem cells can help at least reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. So if you have the means, this may be an option for you.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Breathing Exercises

Have you ever heard of the Iceman? There is a Dutch man named Wim Hof who developed a method of dealing with environmental, physical, and mental stresses in a way that is considered “superhuman”. The Wim Hof Method has been, and is still being, researched by doctors and scientists alike to determine its efficacy, and to see if it was a hoax. So far, the Wim Hof Method seems like a legitimate way to increase energy, improve sleep, improve recovery time, and support a stronger immune system, among other claims. One of the three pillars of the Wim Hof Method is breathing exercises.

Well breathing exercises are also as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia. There hasn’t been a lot of clinical or peer-reviewed research on breathing exercises for fibromyalgia, but patients have reported lower pain levels, improved pain thresholds, and improved fatigue. While this alternative treatment hasn’t been shown to completely alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms, patients have reported symptoms improved to a manageable and functional level. The best part about breathing exercises as a method of managing fibro is the cost. With some training, breathing exercises can be performed on your own at home.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

This is by no means an exhaustive list of alternative treatments for fibromyalgia. If there is one in particular that you’d like me to cover or just want others to be aware of, please comment below! If you’ve had experience with any of these alternative methods, I’d love to hear about that too! Please remember, I am not a doctor and am in no way trying to tell you how to treat your fibromyalgia. I’m just sharing some information on treatment options not always discussed in conventional medicine in case any of you are interested in trying an alternative. But as always, please consult a medical professional when making health care decisions!